Posts Tagged ‘egypt’

Jaffa: From Egyptian Basket Cases to Napoleon’s Backfired Plan

July 23, 2013

It’s difficult to throw a rock in Israel and not hit a site that is deeply steeped in history. Such is the city of Jaffa (Joppa), which dates back to the Neolithic Period around 7500 BC. Jaffa is first mentioned in an Egyptian tale now known as The Taking of Joppa from around 1440 BC. This letter describes how Thutmose III’s general, Djehuty infiltrated the city by hiding his soldiers in baskets and passing said baskets off as gifts to the governor. Jaffa again makes Egyptian headlines in the Amarna letters, written between 1388 and 1332 BC. Ramses II even had a fort here in the 13th century.

Jaffa, with Andromeda's Rock

Jaffa, with Andromeda’s Rock

Around the 13th century, Israel appeared on the scene. Joshua 19:46 tells us that the tribe of Dan placed its borders against Japho. But, in the 12th century, the Sea People (remember our friends the Philistines?) leave a great destruction layer in the city’s stratigraphy. It is around this time and place the Aegean myth arises of Perseus’ rescue of Andromeda from the clutches of the spiteful gods. Tradition has it that he swept her off her feet at the port of Jaffa. Later on, Huram, king of Tyre, would send Solomon cedars of Lebanon through the Jaffa port for the building of the temple. However, the port city never returned to Israelite control. The invading Assyrians placed Jaffa under the protection of Ashkelon, until it came under Phoenician control in the Persian Empire. During the Assyrian occupation, an opinionated prophet named Jonah took a notion to escape an omniscient God by using Jaffa as a jumping off point in a trip to Tarshish.

Downtown Jaffa

Downtown Jaffa

Jaffa spent the better part of the Hellenistic period in a tug of war between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empire. After a bit of destruction by the Maccabees, it would find itself in the hands of Herod, then Cleopatra, then Herod again. By the New Testament period, things had settled down a bit. Peter was called to Joppa to return the faithful Tabitha to life. While he was there, in the house of Simon the tanner, Cornelius sent for him from Caesarea Maritima.

Market at Jaffa by Gustav Bauernfeind, 1887

Market at Jaffa by Gustav Bauernfeind, 1887

Jaffa clung to history for years to come, surviving captures, recaptures, and destructions to prevent captures and recaptures (the Crusaders and Arabs tended towards that habit). Napoleon even took a crack at it 1799, until the bubonic plague ended that endeavor. It wasn’t until the 1950s that everyone got their act together and unified Jaffa and Tel Aviv into the Tel Aviv-Yafo that we know and love today.

Jaffa in the Evening

Jaffa in the Evening